Baseball / Sports

Escobar comes up big for Twins

CLEVELAND -- Infielder Eduardo Escobar doesn't get cheated on a swing. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Escobar -- listed at 5-10 -- hits home runs as far as anyone during batting practice.

So Eduardo, are you the most powerful man on the team?

"Every now and then," he said before laughing.

Escobar provided some diminutive dynamite Monday, belting the game-winning home run in the Twins' 1-0, 10-inning victory over the Indians at Progressive Field. Escobar launched a 1-0 pitch from closer John Axford an estimated 352 feet into the stands in right, sending the Twins bench into celebration mode. The Twins opened their seven-game road trip with a bang, their first 1-0 extra-inning victory since May 28, 2011, against the Angels.

It might have been fitting that Gardenhire's last available position player had the biggest hit of the night.

With Joe Mauer still recovering from back spasms, the Twins were down to two bench players. Both were used in the seventh inning, as Gardenhire pushed for a run.

Josmil Pinto cracked a two-out double to left and was replaced by pinch runner Danny Santana, making his major league debut. It nearly was disastrous, as he barely beat a pickoff attempt by catcher Yan Gomes. Chris Herrmann walked, and Gardenhire sent up Escobar as a pinch hitter. Cleveland manager Terry Francona pulled starter Zach McAllister for reliever Bryan Shaw. He got Escobar to ground out to end the inning.

"You watch those games unfold, and you know it's going to take one run," Gardenhire said. "and we tried everything we could to get it early, using our whole bench."

The Twins headed into the final two innings with a depleted bench. Both bullpens held to force extra innings, setting the stage for Escobar's heroics.

Caleb Thielbar got the victory in relief, with Glen Perkins earning his eighth save. But starter Kyle Gibson did everything he could to put the Twins in position to win -- even getting his uniform dirty on Michael Brantley's grounder in the fourth.

Gibson raced to first as second baseman Brian Dozier scrambled to field the ball. Dozier grabbed it, spun and threw to first. Gibson had to reach back to his left to catch the throw then, knowing he was short on time, slid toward first and jammed his foot on the bag to get the out. The degree of difficulty was high because first baseman Chris Colabello went after the grounder but failed to reach it, then tried to retreat to first but was in between Dozier and Gibson. Dozier said he almost hit Colabello in the rear with the throw.

"Trevor Plouffe gave me the ball and said, 'I've officially reinstated your athlete card, I took it away since you're a pitcher,' " Gibson said.

Gibson needed to get back to the mound, where things were easier for him. In seven innings, Gibson gave up two hits and three walks with one strikeout. He hung with McAllister, who shut out the Twins for 62/3 innings. Gibson made all the right pitches, stringing zeros across the scoreboard and leaving the offense within one swing of the bat from winning the game. That swing finally came in the tenth.

"A heck of a baseball game," Gardenhire said, "and fortunately for us we came out of top with a big home run."

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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